OT Asset Discovery & Inventory Management: Exploring the Selective Probing Technique


As Operational Technology (OT) environments become increasingly interconnected and complex, organizations face the challenge of effectively discovering and managing their OT assets. Understanding the inventory of assets is crucial for maintaining security, ensuring operational efficiency, and managing risks. In this blog post, we will delve into the concept of OT asset discovery and inventory management, focusing specifically on the selective probing technique and its role in streamlining this process.


The Importance of OT Asset Discovery and Inventory Management

Operational Technology refers to the hardware and software systems that control and monitor physical processes, such as industrial control systems (ICS), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, and distributed control systems (DCS). These systems are vital for the functioning of critical infrastructure sectors, including energy, manufacturing, transportation, and more.


Effective OT asset discovery and inventory management provide several benefits:

Security: A comprehensive inventory of OT assets enables organizations to identify potential vulnerabilities, assess the security posture, and implement appropriate security measures. It helps in identifying outdated or unsupported systems that may pose risks, ensuring timely patching and updating.


Risk Management: Understanding the inventory of OT assets allows organizations to evaluate the impact of asset failures or disruptions. It facilitates risk assessment and the implementation of proactive measures to mitigate potential risks.

Operational Efficiency: Accurate knowledge of OT assets promotes operational efficiency by optimizing maintenance schedules, facilitating asset lifecycle management, and improving resource allocation. It helps in identifying redundant or underutilized assets, leading to cost savings.


Compliance: Many industries have specific regulations and compliance requirements related to asset management. A clear inventory of OT assets aids in meeting these requirements and simplifies audit processes.


The Selective Probing Technique


The selective probing technique is an approach used to discover and inventory OT assets in a targeted and efficient manner. It involves the use of specialized tools and methodologies to selectively probe the network and identify assets based on specific criteria. This technique minimizes network disruption and reduces unnecessary scanning, making it ideal for sensitive OT environments where operational continuity is critical.


Key Steps in Implementing Selective Probing for OT Asset Discovery


Define Discovery Goals: Begin by establishing clear goals and objectives for the asset discovery process. Identify the specific information you want to gather, such as IP addresses, device types, firmware versions, or communication protocols used. This helps in narrowing down the scope and focusing on the relevant aspects of asset discovery.


Identify Critical Assets: Prioritize the identification of critical assets within the OT environment. These assets may include systems that control vital processes, network infrastructure components, or devices with known vulnerabilities. By focusing on critical assets, you ensure that the most important elements of your infrastructure are identified and properly managed.


Employ Passive Discovery Techniques: Passive discovery techniques involve monitoring network traffic and analyzing communication patterns to gain insights into the network infrastructure. This approach avoids active scanning, reducing the risk of disruption. Passive techniques can include monitoring network traffic through port mirroring, analyzing network logs, or utilizing network monitoring tools specifically designed for OT environments.


Utilize Vendor Documentation and Information: Manufacturer documentation, technical specifications, and asset information from vendors can provide valuable insights into the characteristics and configurations of OT assets. This information can be used to build an initial asset inventory and aid in subsequent discovery efforts.

Conduct Targeted Scans: In situations where active probing is necessary, employ targeted scanning techniques. Selectively scan specific subnets or IP address ranges based on predefined criteria or known asset characteristics. This helps minimize the impact on the network while focusing on areas where assets are likely to be found.


Leverage Protocol-specific Discovery


Many OT systems use specialized communication protocols that are unique to their respective industries. Understanding and leveraging these protocols can enhance the discovery process. By utilizing protocol-specific discovery tools or plugins, you can identify assets based on the protocols they use, making the discovery process more efficient and accurate.

Continuously Update and Maintain Inventory: Asset discovery is an ongoing process, as new assets are added, and existing assets are modified or retired. Implement a mechanism to continuously update and maintain the asset inventory, ensuring that it remains accurate and up to date. Automated tools can help monitor changes in the network and automatically update the inventory accordingly.




Effective OT asset discovery and inventory management are crucial for maintaining security, managing risks, and optimizing operational efficiency. The selective probing technique provides a targeted and efficient approach to discovering and inventorying OT assets while minimizing network disruption. By defining clear discovery goals, prioritizing critical assets, employing passive techniques, leveraging vendor information, conducting targeted scans, utilizing protocol-specific discovery, and maintaining an up-to-date inventory, organizations can enhance their understanding of the OT environment and effectively manage their assets. Investing in robust asset discovery and inventory management processes ensures a secure, resilient, and efficient OT infrastructure.

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